Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Prescience or madness in Curse the Names. Magu Exhibit. Banned Books Update. On-Line Floricanto

Review:  Robert Arellano. Curse The Names. NY: Akashic Books, 2012.
ISBN-13: 978-1-61775-030-4

Michael Sedano

Curse the Names, Robert Arellano’s first novel since Havana Lunar arrives a 21st century counterpart to doomsday literature of the cold war era.

There’s the same underlying dread from On the Beach and the frustrated inevitability of The End of the Dream. This end of the world comes by our own doing.

James Oberhelm, a forty year old misfit with a cushy job writing at Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory, sees it coming, at first in nightmares then slap–in-the-face reality. At the same time, Oberhelm’s life goes wildly awry as he’s hunting down a story while washing down oxycodones with booze.

The character comes to occupy parallel worlds, the quotidian Los Alamos and a dystopia come into being from Oberhelm’s nightmare fueled prescience. In the end, if thousands of drums of nuclear waste are to go off on August 6, Hiroshima Day, that will be Oberhelm’s fault.

What’s a reader to do when a novel runs amok in the guise of a plot and its first person character becomes increasingly untrustworthy? Arellano tosses possibilities out to keep readers off-balance.

If Oberhelm has been victimized, Demon Core malevolence has lured him to that tryst-place, fried his dog and laptop, exposed him to the slimy hippie, emptied his bed and bank accounts. And his nightmares will take on a life of their own on Hiroshima Day. Maximum Exposed Offsite Individuals parameters would produce cognitive impairment for the eight to nine days radiation takes to kill you. The MEOI would be 100%.

“In other words, that much radiation would pretty much cause what happened in my nightmare. / I ate a couple more oxycodones, smoked more pot, drank more coffee, watched more cable. I woke up the PC and tried to log on at work”

But then, Oberhelm is in the process of frying this brain and transition from jerk to total misfit. Arellano introduces his character in the process of getting lured to “hook up” with a young woman at an abandoned house 100 miles away. On the spur of the moment he drags his wife to a 4th of July campground then waits until his wife sleeps from her pills to sneak out of their tent to drive into night to find the tryst.

Oberhelm’s responsible for his domestic chaos, though his wife Kitty piles it on. Kitty has fallen in with new age animal whisperers. Her friends resent Oberhelm’s troglodytic manner. The couple carom off one another at every domestic collision.  When beloved dog Oppie’s battered body turns up in the trunk of Oberhelm’s car, it’s the last straw. Kitty abandons Oberhelm for the guru’s arms.

He has it coming, in other words—the no good end. Her choices are hers, though with that name, perhaps less so. “Kitty” is the voice of One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding and an e.e. cummings poem.

Curse the Names isn’t a gloomy nuclear environmental disaster novel with a loud author’s message. The impending end of the world comes with a bit of fun and a few surprises tossed in, and no message other than have fun--except that nuclear stuff sizzling below the fiction encourages a squirm of discomfort, even amid the oddball fun.

Curse the Names is anglo literature. That is, Arellano eschews ethnicity to the point Oberhelm makes a point to distinguish himself as an outsider. Career-wise, he observes he’s riding out the east coast recession on his way to big media on the west coast. It’s a sly twist on the urgency of “Go West, young man.”

Given Arellano’s Edgar-finalist achievement with Havana Lunar and his earlier novels, it’s surprising to find the only Latina Latino element in Curse the Names is its New Mexico locale and offhand remarks like “some bitchy goth-Hispanic dissimulation.” It’s tempting to place Arellano into the camp of Latina Latino writers aching to break out of a literary ghetto in quest of being shelved with “United States Fiction” as opposed to “Latina Latino Fiction.”

Not that that’s a bad thing but it is a thing. I’ll await Arellano’s next book to see where he’s taking his art. For now, a reader’s got hands full coming to terms with this character and story, and that squirm.

CRUISIN' CALIFAS: The Art of Lowriding

May 13 - September 30, 2012
Singh Family Gallery

La Bloga friend Naiche Lujan invites gente to a new exhibit along the Pacific coast. Naiche writes:

Toward the end of (our father) Magu's life, his artistic practice focused almost exclusively around his carrito-themed work. Perhaps it was because doing so took him back to simpler days of the 40s and 50s when his youthful eyes were imprinted by those vehicular icons with their voluptuous curves and shiny chrome accents. Or maybe it was because our present day culture is still so invested in the horseless carriage as an expression of personal identity and social status and he saw it as an opportunity to connect with people. 

He called these works of art 'cultural vehicles' (pun intended!), as they carried with them embedded statements about culture. Whether his work bonked you on the head with a wittingly obvious notion or took you down the path of a nuanced and obscure reference; there is one thing we can be sure of: he loved to start a conversation and instigate debate. He always encouraged us, through his work, to take a deeper look at the world around us and explore the meaning we give it. 

So, we hope you will join us as we continue to honor and celebrate his legacy by exhibiting a selection of his most car-centric artwork.

The first event of a series is the Saturday Preview Reception on May 12 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. The event is $10 to nonmembers of the Oceanside Museum of Art. Details at the event site.

Banned Books Update

The flag continues to tatter in Arizona. Old Glory frays every day that the US Constitution and force of law protect racism in Arizona. The List of banned books remains banned today, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. A day like any other day, except you are here and your books, your ideas, your history, our culture, remain banned in the United States.

Institutionalized pendejismo doesn't prevent good gente from publishing books that would be banned in Arizona and burned in Tucson. In San Antonio Texas, for example, independent press Gemini Ink brings the word to kids trapped for the moments in circumstances landing the kids in a public shelter.

These are the kids whose voices Tucson and the state of Arizona would prefer be neither seen nor heard. Here is one of those voices:

La Bloga has two copies of Ésta es mi palabra to give to the first two requests. Click and include a mailing adress.

On-line floricanto 3d of 5 in May
Odilia Galván Rodríguez,  Jabez W. Churchill, Victor Avila, Tom Sheldon, José Hernández Díaz

"Décimas Para Las Almas Con Alas / Décimas For Souls With Wings" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Un Día de Estos / One of These Days" by Jabez W. Churchill
"Tierra Amarilla '67" by Victor Avila
"Desaparecidos" by Tom Sheldon
"Canto Azul" by José Hernández Díaz

Décimas Para Las Almas Con Alas / Décimas For Souls With Wings
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez


for Monica Alanís and
 all the women of Juárez 

So many daughters disappeared 
After working long shifts at night
At las malquiladoras rife
With innocents to commandeer 
Into a hell of hate and fear.
Kidnap, rape and tortures untold
Unpunished monsters remain bold
Hunt their prey with impunity.
As parents suffer the cruelty,
The trail of their children grown cold.


Juarez, where are our daughters?

Daughters are not disposable
They are born free to two parents
No, not on sale or for clearance
Bloomed in beauty from the cradle
And one day, when they are able
Like all children, they fly the nest
Hoping they'll always do their best
We worry, yet try and let go
Loving them and letting them know
We're for them until our last breath


      Full of Grace
        Llenas de Gracia

From their first smile, to their first dance
Our daughters fill us with new hope
Even when it's too hard to cope
We know someday they'll have a chance
At a better life, for romance.
We dream our grandchildren's faces,
Ancestors returned from those places
Surely we will visit one day.
Our daughters hold secrets of the Way
Creator blessed them with this grace.


              ¡Basta Ya!

I'm going to sing you a story
it's so horrific, yet it's true
Be warned, these words will make you blue.
Parents guessed from very early
These killers for sport, were dirty
Police, or at least on their payroll.
Will they pay for the lives they stole? 
Families demand their daughter's return
From where the killers have them interned.
Not one more woman! End the death toll!

Un Día de Estos / One of These Days
by Jabez W. Churchill 

y que sea pronto
and I hope it´s soon,
no nos llamaremos adversarios,
invasores de Aztlán*,
ni forasteros indocumentados
We won't call one another adversaries,
usurpers of Aztlán
or illegal aliens.

Un día de estos,
one of these days,
y que sea pronto,
and I hope it´s soon,
no habrá que nos divida,
fronteras ni orillas,
sino compartiremos ambos lados
we won´t be divided
by borders or shores
but we will share both sides.

Un día de estos,
one of these days,
y que fuera pronto,
and it should be soon,
no andaremos extraviados,
rojos contra azules,
gabachos y mojados
we won´t be estranged,
red against blue,
white trash and wet backs
sino nos revelaremos el camino
y nos trataremos como hermanos.
But we will show one another the way
and treat each other like brothers.

Un día de estos,
one of these days,
y demasiado pronto,
and way too soon,
no habrá ricos gringolandeses
ni pobres latino, afro, y nativo americanos
there won't be rich Gringos
or poor Latin, Afro, and Native
sino puros sobrevivientes
only survivors
y serán pocos
and just a few.

Un día de estos,
one of these days,
y ojalá pronto
and hopefully soon,
enfrentaremos lo que nos separa,
we will confront that which divides
el avaricio y el miedo,
avarice and fear,
y repartiremos lo que queda
and we will share what's left.

One of these days,
un día de estos,
y debe ser muy pronto
and it better be soon,
dejemonos de ser mayoria y minorias,
homofobicos y machistas
y démonos paso al solidario,
we should cease being a majority and
homophobes and sexists
and we should give solidarity a
antes de que se nos venza el paso,
before our chance is gone.

*Aztlán: México ocupado/occupied Mexico.

Tierra Amarilla '67
by Victor Avila

                                   The Supreme Court decides SB 1070
Now more than ever
the Children of the Sun
must stand together.
For no matter the decision
of the highest court
the law in Arizona is immoral and wrong.
How can you tell
by the color of my skin
if I am illegal
or a flag-waving American?
Will you arrest me
because you suspect-
is my crime that I look
a little too Mexican?

Tiburcio waits and so does Joaquin-
two warriors who aren't afraid
of a violent extreme.
We took over one courthouse
and can take over another.
Tijerina where are you-
my revolutionary brother?
Cesar and Dolores
what should we do?
How do we face this evil
and strike at it's root.
They might win this battle
but will lose the war.
They're unprepared
for the sleeping giant's roar.
Do they think we'll stand down
on this hateful matter?
No, RAZA will rise
in ways Arizona...
                            ...could not have imagined!

desaparecidos© Copyright
by Tom Sheldon

The ghosts of immigrants prowl the hills

They are not wholly forgotten,

they do not die but remain

within the soft folds of the earth,

amidst the ash of twilight fires

seperation and longing

Unsure of the way home,

whispering down a dusty alley

wind blowing trash in the dawn

A voice sounds from the desert

a soulful reminder of how alone they are,

cradled in the safety of death.

Canto Azul
by José Hernández Díaz

No one has seen us. We have seen
no one, blind as we are from seeing.
-Miguel Hernández.

Capitalism is exploitation
is human trafficking      is
         maquiladoras are
feminicides are   bloody
  rivers are   Cuidad Juárez
      is not for sale.     If we
speak if    we write      if
we act       if we fight     if
we    i   m    a    g    i    n    e
if we unite:     Cuidad Juárez
                   Will not be sold.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Canto Azul

Nadie nos ha visto. Hemos visto
A nadie, ciegos como estamos de ver.
-Miguel Hernández. 

El capitalismo es la explotación
es   el trafico humano     es          
        las maquiladoras son
los feminicidios    son    los ríos 
sangrantes son    Ciudad Juárez        
            no está de venta.    Si
hablamos    si escribimos   si
actuamos     si luchamos    si     
lo   i   m   á   g   i   n  a   m  o    s
si nos unimos:   Ciudad Juárez     
                     No será vendida.

"Décimas Para Las Almas Con Alas / Décimas For Souls With Wings" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Un Día de Estos / One of These Days" by Jabez W. Churchill
"Tierra Amarilla '67" by Victor Avila
"Desaparecidos" by Tom Sheldon
"Canto Azul" by José Hernández Díaz

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems. She has worked as an editor for Matrix Women's News Magazine, at Community Mural's Magazine and most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She facilitates creative writing workshops through Red Earth Productions, and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070.

Jabez W. Churchill. Celebrating 15 years as a bilingual poet teacher with CIPTS in the public schools of California, mainly with youth ar risk in County schools and primarily Spanish speaking junior and senior high schools. Currently a language instructor at both Santa Rosa and Mendocino Colleges. Four books, to date, and one on-line. Read regularly at Vancouver, B.C's poetry festival, mid August, and the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Featured in University of San Antonio's upcoming release. Just checked out Mama Coatl's event in San Francisco on Friday. Last time I read there, I had to win a fistfight outside to get a turn at the mic. Other than that, I'm civilly disobedient

Victor Avila is an award-winning poet and a California educator.  Two of his poems were recently included in the anthology Occupy SF-Poems From the Movement.

I’m Tom Sheldon. I was born in New Mexico on 9 Dec 1958, and come from a large Hispanic family. As far as my own personal history in Art goes, it is brief. I have always appreciated the gift of creating since I was young. I like all mediums and love (Southwestern) nature and organic based topics. While I have had little in the way of formal training and education, I've enjoyed a modicum of success, mostly in drawing/drafting. I teach students on occasion, and have also illustrated for (HWI) Hawk Watch International. I enjoy photography as a tool for composition and as an aid in drawing and painting, though now I'm beginning to see photography as a medium rather than just a tool.

My work has shown in local galleries, as well as the Museum of Natural History here. I have won art competitions at the State Fair level. I also love to write poetry; my poetry was featured in La Bloga, Monique's Passions e-magazine, Poets Supporting SB1070 on Facebook, and also, Writers in the Storm (October,1992)....

José Hernández Díaz is a first-generation Chicano poet with a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley. José has been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology 2011, La Gente Newsmagazine of UCLA, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, The Packinghouse Review, Revista Contratiempo, Blood Lotus Journal, among others. He has forthcoming publications in HUIZACHE, The Progressive, and in the anthologies, El Norte que Viene, and Tan cerca de EE.UU. (poesía mexicana en la frontera norte). In addition, he is an active moderator of the online group, Poets Responding to SB1070, where he has contributed more than 40 of his own poems. On September 1, 2012, he will host a poetry recital in Los Angeles in support of Ciudad Juárez. This event is part of an international day of reflection on the region organized by Escritores por Ciudad Juárez which will consist of simultaneous poetry recitals in 119 cities, 24 countries, and 4 continents.

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